Perhaps you've always enjoyed attending (in-person) networking events: You get to hang out somewhere pleasant, meet new people and maybe bump into some people you already know.
Many in the manufacturing industry have done MOST of their networking at trade shows and only see themselves networking in this capacity, but the reality is that most trade shows have been cancelled or moved online for the best part of two years and we must be prepared, in case it happens again!
We are definitely in unprecedented times and our reality is that the way of Scouts (Always be prepared!) is something that has definitely been adopted by many, the world over.
Most times there is also networking after online webinars and virtual trade shows; there truly are so many available opportunities.
Another way to network is through social media; the best part of which is that we can connect with anyone in any part of the world that allows the use thereof.
Here's how you can use some of the most popular social media sites for professional networking:
Look through your connections for people you highly respect, but may not have talked to in a while. Reach out to them: it's a simple way to reconnect with people.
• Peruse the LinkedIn “People You May Know” feature; when requesting to connect, add a personal note to your connection request to initiate the conversation
• Find and follow companies / industry leaders that you admire
• Engage with connections’ content (by adding valuable comments, not just liking posts) and remember this: you never know who may see your comment and reach out to you
• Reach out to connections via the inbox to get to know them through messages and even off the platform on a call, video call or in person if they are in a nearby location to you
• Create and publish posts of your own; it puts you out there so that your name and face show up on other people's feeds (FACT: although LinkedIn has about 800+ Million users, only about 5% of them share content, so you WILL definitely stand out!)
Twitter is a lot more than just writing a short blurb about whatever crosses your mind; it is a great platform to build a network and display your own expertise.
• Tweet about your industry often
• Follow hashtags that are important to you and your industry (find this through a simple search on Google)
• After you follow someone, comment on their posts or retweet them (engaging with them; building rapport)
• Feel free to reach out and get to know someone through the DMs and respond if someone reaches out to you (if it’s not spam)
Facebook can be a little bit trickier for professional networking, with most people preferring to use Facebook as their personal social media. Still, you'll find that many people also follow their favorite businesses there.
• Don't underestimate personal (rather than professional) connections. Look through your “People You May Know” section and see if there are any friends out there that you don't have as a FB friend. Add them and send a message, starting simply with just hello. If they aren't working in your industry, chances are they know someone who does or they know someone who knows someone — you get the drift.
• Go live. Find a topic that is timely and fun and post a live video where you show off what you can do or what you know.
Photos are a wonderful way to engage an audience, and that's what Instagram is all about. While you should keep it fun, you can also sneak in some professional networking if you try.
• Much like Twitter, you can follow people you admire on Instagram and comment on their photos to start a connection. You can also use and follow hashtags to connect with others who have similar interests.
• Always keep comments professional and polite. If you're looking to establish a professional connection, avoid commenting on factors that don't have to do with your industry or work aspirations, like physical appearance. While you might think it's a harmless compliment, it's better to avoid it altogether.
Grab a cup of (virtual) coffee / beer / wine / set up a Cocktail Hour!
Just because you're social distancing, it doesn't mean you can't have a coffee/cocktail meeting -- just make it a virtual one!
Who do you invite? Here are some ideal candidates:
• That new connection: Have you made a new connection that you've never met in person? Meet over Zoom, or a similar platform, for a cup of something and get to know each other. It's a low-pressure way to kick off that new relationship.
• That old connection: Is there a person you've been connected to forever who you've lost touch with lately? A virtual coffee date is a great way to reconnect.
• A customer: Do you have a client or customer who is a champion for your business? Set up a virtual coffee chat to get to know them better. Find out what keeps them coming back to your business, and perhaps even offer them a perk once things return to normal (or whatever the new normal will be).
When you do a virtual coffee meeting, it should be a light, casual experience. Keep it fun, but still use the opportunity to build your professional relationships.
Please note that this blog post is the 3rd of a series of 4.
Don’t miss part 4 of this Networking Series: Networking (Part Four): Virtual Networking: LinkedIn Groups
Want to read this series from the beginning? Start with this post: Networking (Part One): The Correlation Between Relationships and Sales